Scottie Cramp or CA?
Page 1
Murphy, who can no longer walk, a rare, but possible result of CA in the Scottie
For years, Scottie owners have been aware of a movement disorder in the breed known as Scottie Cramp.
Descriptions of this disease abound, and anyone who knows anything about the breed has undoubtedly heard of it.
The symptoms of Cramp are very easy to recognize or are they?

For the past two years I've talked with Scottie owners who believed their dog suffered from Cramp, and many of their
vets agreed. These Scotties began life normally but slowly developed irregularities in movement. They became a bit
clumsy, began to trip occasionally and their gait seemed to worsen when overexcited. At times the back legs slipped
or slid out from under them, almost as if they suddenly encountered a patch of ice. This was especially noticeable
on smooth surfaces such as wood floors, tile or linoleum.

The rear-end seemed to have a life of its own, especially while running or attempting a sharp turn, causing the dog to
fall or somersault, often rolling over and over again until coming to a stop. These Scotties exhibited irregularities in the
front legs too, some pranced with a fancy high-stepping gait and others developed a very cute, soldier-like march.
Some had a mild, stiff-legged gait and a slightly elevated rump, which made it appear as though the dog tip-toed.
Others began to move at a slower or more cautious pace and some developed a wide-based, rear-leg stance.

As time went by, many owners began to question their diagnosis. The symptoms they saw didn't quite fit those
describing Scottie Cramp. The abnormal movements were present at all times, not only occasionally or only when the
dog was exercised or excited. No matter where the dog was or what he/she was doing, the subtle gait abnormalities

Indoors, these dogs had more trouble on smooth flooring than carpeting, some could no longer jump on a couch and
some began to refuse stairs. Those that continued to go up and down steps tripped easily and sometimes tumbled to
the ground. These dogs bunny-hopped while running, exhibited goose-stepping movements and some refused to jump
over unexpected obstacles. If they tried to jump at all, they usually tripped or would over-flex their legs as though
perceiving the jump to be higher than it actually was, causing some owners to conclude the dog had problems with
vision. People unaccustomed to seeing the dog move, failed to detect the problem as easily as those living with the
dog on a daily basis. The early symptoms in the first few years could be misinterpreted as clumsiness by the casual

Eventually these owners found their answer and it was not one they would have expected. It turned out these dogs
suffered from a newly described disorder in the Scottish Terrier known as Cerebellar Abiotrophy, better known as "CA."

CA is a progressive degenerative disease resulting from a premature loss of brain cells in the cerebellum. It causes
ataxia or the inability to coordinate movement. The condition is proven to be hereditary and is caused by an
autosomal recessive gene in the Scottish Terrier, confirmed by Dr. Jerold Bell, DVM, the geneticist working on this
disease in the breed. Both parents must carry the defective gene to produce affected offspring. CA is a late-onset
disorder so symptoms aren't usually noticed until about 6 months of age. Some might detect the problem sooner,
or a bit later. Dogs with CA start out life seemingly normal, however, as more brain cells die off, they gradually
develop a sloppy gait, lose control of their fined-tuned motor skills and begin to exhibit inconsistencies in movement.
A slight tremor, often present during initiating movements, will disappear at rest.

Over time, symptoms become more apparent and some dogs may, eventually, require assistance or support. A
Scottie with this disorder can live out a full life span and the mind remains normal throughout the disease process,
but in time, affected dogs must work harder than the average dog just to walk, and they will never regain what has
been lost to them.

Perhaps we should take a look at some similarities seen in these two neurological diseases. Maybe it will help us
understand why some Scotties affected with CA are thought to have Scottie Cramp. Below is a list of symptoms
describing each disorder. Keep in mind, both are already established as widespread hereditary conditions, both are
caused by a defective autosomal recessive gene, and both are permanent conditions in the Scottie.

Cerebellar Abiotrophy
Symptoms are constant and progressive
Scottie Cramp
Symptoms are occasional, not progressive
Changes in gait
Changes in gait
Abnormal movements in forelegs
Abnormal movements in forelegs
Spine or lumbar may arch
Spine or lumbar may arch
Rear legs over-flex
Rear legs over-flex
Dog may somersault and fall
Dog may somersault and fall
Dog begins to goose step
Dog begins to goose step
Dog represses movement
Dog represses movement
Severity of symptoms varies widely
Severity of symptoms varies widely
Dog experiences no pain
Dog experiences no pain
Uncoordinated movements
Uncoordinated movements
The similarities in these two diseases are remarkable, aren't they? If one happens to forget that Cramp is only
present occasionally and is not a progressive disease, it would be easy to confuse the two disorders.
"Every affected Scottish Terrier may not show all of the above symptoms,"
in mind that symptoms seen in CA are constant and never go away; they slowly get worse as the years go by. CA
is a progressive disease, but it can sometimes take years to notice a change in a mildly affected dog. Even
experienced breeders could mistake what they are seeing for Scottie Cramp.

Scottie Cramp, on the other hand, gets no worse and is not a progressive disease. Dogs with Cramp only exhibit
symptoms occasionally or while under stress. Once the stressful situation is resolved, the dog is perfectly normal
again and will exhibit no unusual movement whatsoever. They live a relatively normal life with only brief periods of
temporary incoordination. If the stress precipitating a cramping episode is avoided, the dog may never show
symptoms again.
says Dr. Bell, but it is important to bear
Click to continue to page 2 ...
Copyright 2003, Debbie Smith
Two Neurological Disorders Affecting the Breed
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